The Stolen Necklace
I had always longed to go to a Greek island. My father had shown me pictures of the gorgeous rocky coastlands, sandy coves arcing round sea so blue it looked like ink, villages of white-washed houses climbing up hillsides so steep that the roads turned to staircases of stone; of veiled women, all in black, picking olives in the grey green groves; of goats and donkeys wandering on the hillsides, and ancient ruins of weathered stone in unexpected places;
When Henry suggested that we go to the island of Poros for our honeymoon I was overwhelmed. From the moment I had met Henry I found him disturbingly attractive and secretly hoped that he was the one for me. For the first couple of years he paid very little attention to me. I admired him from a distance, but scarcely dared to believe that he would ever notice me, let alone choose me for his life’s companion. Then slowly, slowly he had started to show that he liked being with me. First he simply moved across to join the group I was in whenever we met at a party. Then he suggested we go to a concert at the City Hall. It was all very platonic. We discovered that we both loved the mountains, and as we explored the Table Mountain Range, the Hottentot’s Holland and Jonkershoek, our relationship grew deeper. Quite suddenly everything had changed, and now I was married to him. Everything I had ever yearned for was coming together in my life, and as we started to plan a honeymoon in Greece, I felt like the ‘spoilt child of fortune.’
We landed at Athens airport very early on a May morning. The boat to the islands was not leaving until 4 p.m. so we made a quick trip up to the Acropolis. None of the many pictures I had seen had done justice to the wonderful light, or the grace of the fluted columns of the Parthenon. As I stood beneath the Karyatids of the Erechtheum I had a new sense of time and space. I realized with awe how deeply our culture, and my own spirit, had been shaped by the unique sense of beauty of the early Greeks. We could hardly tear ourselves away, and finally only just managed to rush back to the harbour at Piraeus in time to catch our boat to Poros. Our joy kept bubbling over into laughter at one small delight after another as we stood at the rail watching the boats and the gulls, leaving behind the mainland, drawing nearer to ‘our’ island.
The first day was a dream. Our hotel was a small friendly guesthouse run by a family who wanted to do everything possible to make us happy. We explored the inviting outdoor restaurants, and on the second evening sat for hours on a terrace under fruiting vines, looking out to sea, savouring the local wine, telling one another stories not yet shared of childhood holidays.
We returned at around 11 to the hotel. I opened the suitcase to take out the old-fashioned frilly white nightdress my Mother had given me, which she had used on her own honeymoon. I slipped off the jade earrings and necklace I had been wearing, and opened the green leather jewelbox.
As I opened the lid I was instantly aware that the ruby necklace was not there. The rubies had been a wedding gift from Henry’s grandmother. They were far the most precious thing I possessed.
This couldn’t be true. They couldn’t be gone. Had they fallen into the case, slipped down amidst the silk underwear? Frantically pulled out everything in the case, shaking it and then throwing it on the floor.
“What on earth are you doing?” Henry asked, as he emerged from the shower.
“The rubies are gone. I can’t find the rubies,” I sobbed.
He joined in the search. Down on our hands and knees, we peered under the bed, ran our hands over every inch of the floor, shook out again and again, everything that had been in the suitcase.
“Are you sure that the suitcase was locked? Henry asked.
I drew in my breath. “I don’t think it was,” I said miserably.
“You fool!” Henry shouted. “How on earth could you leave such precious things in an unlocked case, in a new hotel, in a strange foreign country? My grandmother will be furious. She found it very hard to part with that necklace. My grandfather gave it to her when she told him she was pregnant with her first child. She never intended to give it away. But when we got engaged she wanted to give you something special … to make you feel truly welcomed into the family. I don’t know how I’ll ever tell her. You must go right away and talk to the hotel staff.”
“O! I can’t. It’s much too late,” I whimpered. I felt both betrayed and deserted. “We’ll have to wait and look again in the morning.”
“No! We’ve looked everywhere. We know it’s not here. You must go right – confront them before they have time to get rid of it. It’s our only chance. Go on.”
I didn’t budge. Tears were running down my cheeks, for the necklace, but also because of Henry’s anger.
He relented. “I’ll come with you, but you do the talking. You left the case unlocked.”
“O, I can’t. I can’t… just accuse them. They’re so nice, so friendly. I can’t believe that anyone in this family took it.”
“How else could it have disappeared?” Henry asked with withering scorn.
At that moment I hated Henry. His attitude felt like very harsh retribution for one careless moment of forgetfulness.
I said, “I feel like a dog being kicked when it is already down.”
“Don’t be stupid. Come on.” Henry said, pulling me roughly towards the door.
Of course the family denied knowing about the necklace.
We went miserably back to bed and decided to move to another island. Our relationship with our hosts was spoilt, and so, for the moment, was our honeymoon and our relationship with one another.
It took a week of Mediterranean sea and sky, seven silent walks, and seven long swims, seven Greek dinners, and seven bottles of wine, before we were able to look one another in the eye, share our sadness at the loss of the rubies, and finally laugh together again. After all, even rubies have no right to ruin a honeymoon.